Steven Reigns looks likely to be named the official poet of West Hollywood.
The city’s Arts and Cultural Affairs Commission on Thursday will consider three nominees for the position of poet laureate. They include Reigns, Charles Flowers and Yazmin Monet Watkins. In a report to the commission, the Arts and Economic Development staff recommends Reigns for the position. It also suggests the title be changed from “poet laureate” to “city poet.”
The City Council in May agreed to create the position of poet laureate, which is a title conferred by a government body or an organization on a poet who is expected to compose poems for official events. The concept originated at least eight centuries ago when Albertino Mussato was crowned poet laureate in 1315 by the Senate of the Italian city-state of Padua.
Gov. Jerry Brown named Juan Felipe Herrera, a poet and professor at the University of California Riverside as the state’s poet laureate in 2012. That same year, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa named Eloise Klein Healy as that city’s first poet laureate. Healy, who has written seven books of poetry, is paid $10,000 a year in that position.
West Hollywood’s city poet will earn more in recognition than cash. The City Council approved a stipend of $1,500 a year for a two-year term. The city poet will lead a poetry writing workshop and organize a poetry reading or other literary event. The city poet also will be expected to write and publish an original poem celebrating West Hollywood and read a poem at the annual installation of the city’s mayor.
The city Arts and Development staff recommendation notes that Reigns has written nine books of poetry and has participated in and organized dozens of poetry readings across the country. Reigns also has participated in a number of language-related art installations. He has taught numerous poetry classes and workshops. Reigns is a native of St. Louis and for a number of years has lived in West Hollywood. Reigns has a master’s degree in family therapy from Antioch University.
Charles Flowers, one of the other three nominees, is a poet who publishes Bloom, a gay literary journal. Flowers is the former executive director of the Lambda Literary Foundation and currently is development director for Arts for LA.
Yazmin Monet Watkins is a spoken word poet and actress who has performed in several short films and feature films. She also is the author of the “queer-inspired” “Love Without Limits: The Bi-Laws of Love.”
The Arts and Cultural Affairs Commission will meet at 5 p.m. at the West Hollywood Library Community Meeting Room.